The Mac OS X Lion upgrade from the Snow Leopard is the seventh named after a big cat, and some say the last in the series, as Apple moves to bridge the gap between its mobile and desktop interfaces, just like Microsoft is doing with its Windows 8.
With 250 new features, it is safe to say that a lot has changed with Lion, and that a lot of it has to do with the user interface, including new features for the Mac App Store to better integrate with the OS, and trackpad gestures. A look at our favourite features, tricks and tweaks and what we didn’t like:
Spotlight is the Mac’s version of the search box, and it is the best-looking and easiest-to-use search box right now. Search for a doc and then hover over it to get a preview, use Spotlight to search the Web or to launch a Google search result in your browser, or drag and drop your search results directly into Mail to attach files. Press Command + Space, and Spotlight will pop up.
The file system has long been one area where Macs are a little less welcoming to power users, but the new Finder has a few tweaks there. All My Files shows all your files, organized by type, and you can swipe through files easily using the trackpad.
More useful, though, are the new folder options—try and combine two folders with the same name and Lion will ask if you want to merge them, and you can also now select files and tap to create a folder, simplifying organization.
Lionhearted: The focus is on a better user interface.
iTunes screen saver
With Lion, you can set the artwork from the albums you have in iTunes as screen savers. Clicking on any one of these will launch the music in the corresponding album. Go to System Preferences > Desktop and Screen Saver and choose iTunes Artwork to enable this service.
Add a login message
A login message isn’t new, but having a message for when the screen is locked is a nice touch. You can go to System Preferences > Security and Privacy > General, and choose Show a Message When the Screen is Locked. This simple tweak can be used to give out your personal information—it may come in handy in case you lose your laptop.
Easy special characters
Accented characters are actually easier to type on phones than on computers because a long press on most smartphones brings them up, while they require you to remember complicated key combinations on desktops. No more, though, if you have the Lion OS. Hold down any letter while typing and a list pops up with accent options. Tap the correct number or click to get the accent mark you want. This doesn’t work with every app yet—for example Gmail—but all native apps support this already.
Manage space effectively
One issue with Finder is that if you don’t have the status bar up, you won’t get to see how much space you have on your computer. To enable the status bar, open Finder’s menu bar, go to View > Show Status Bar. Or if you want to keep that clean interface, select the hard drive in Finder and press the space bar to get a quick look at the free/used space.
Get Gmail style conversation view in Mail
The best thing about Gmail for many is the threaded conversations view for mails, and the new Mail app supports this as well. Go to Preferences > Viewing > Include Related Messages to get the streamlined Gmail feel in your Mail app.
NOT SO HOT
Reverse the reverse scrolling
If you’re not already an iOS user, Lion’s natural scrolling may take some getting used to—scrolling down requires an upwards swipe, which is strange without a touch screen. To scroll normally, open System Preferences > Trackpad > Scroll and Zoom > Scroll Direction. Click on the check box, disabling natural scroll direction. That’s it, you’re back to scrolling the way Snow Leopard did it.
Tap to drag
Another Lion tweak was removing the double tap to drag a file, the way it is done in Windows. Instead, there’s a three-finger drag gesture—and, it may be a while before you get the hang of it. But the way to switch this back to normal is not in the Trackpad tab, unlike for the Natural Scrolling feature. Instead, it’s hidden in System Preferences > Universal Access > Mouse and Trackpad > Trackpad Options > Drag. You can also have both dragging options active simultaneously.
Fix that full screen
Full-screen apps is a nice update for Lion, but it isn’t implemented perfectly across the board. For apps such as Chrome, which do not have a minimize button, it can be a little annoying—a quick workaround to get in and out of full screen, even when there isn’t a button, is to press Command + Shift + F.